What Exactly Was Michael Brown Doing When He Was Shot?


Just before Michael Brown was felled by police bullets, he turned to face officer Darren Wilson. At the climax of an incident that has gripped and divided the U.S., Brown started moving toward Wilson. The question of what happened was at the heart of a grand jury investigation as well as a national protest. The Washington Post examines what is known about what Brown was doing. Most of roughly two dozen witnesses who saw the fatal gunfire Aug. 9 told the grand jury they observed something that was both upsetting and bewildering to them: a wounded man, his hands raised somehow, walking toward a officer who was shooting at him.

Wilson testified he shot Brown after the 18-year-old spun around in preparation for attack, ignoring an order to surrender and instead rushing forward. Three witnesses described Brown's movements as a “charge.” Others said Brown may have been charging but they were not sure. Most of the rest saw forward motion but described it as “steps” or “walking” or “stumbling,” with about a half dozen of these witnesses interpreting Brown's actions as an attempt to surrender. “He just kept walking, he just kept going, he just didn't stop. Even today, I don't know why, I don't understand that,” testified one woman, who concluded that Brown was trying to surrender. “I asked my husband: 'Why won't that child just stop?' “

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